At its core, colleges are educational institutions established to provide higher education to learn a specialized profession or trade.  

Students also learn, in time, to take better care of their overall well-being and mental health. Experiencing low points as a student happens quite often and spurs from the seemingly overbearing amount of work load and pressure to perform at a consistent, successful level.  

“We have learned a lot in the past few years about how to better help students with mental health and personal issues,” Orange Coast College Dean of Students Derek Vergara said. “We have really built up our mental health services the past few years and I am so proud of that. We want students to know that their voices are heard and that there are free services provided on campus that students may utilize at any time.”

The OCC Mental Health and Services Center offers an unlimited amount of one hour, or one-on-one, personal counseling sessions available to any student enrolled at OCC.

The Health Center, located between the Basil H. Peterson Gym and the backside of Watson Hall, offers students clinical and medical aid which is covered in the students’ $19 health fee paid at the beginning of every semester. The fee is calculated by the state based on the cost of living in California.

Students are encouraged to walk in at any time and schedule an appointment, but have the option of meeting with any staff counselor as urgently as needed. Students are also welcome to come lie down when they are feeling ill.

The Mental Health and Services department, which employs 13 full-time staff members, provides a safe place for students to think and talk about anything that may be on their mind.

“In the first six weeks of this semester, we have held a total of 365 sessions so far,” director of OCC’s Mental Health and Services Larry Valentine said. “Appointment topics are varied. Including anxiety, students struggling to define their goals, past trauma, issues at home, or trying to figure out their future.”

Valentine said it’s difficult to do long-term therapy because of breaks in the semester.

“Currently we are doing individualized short-term therapy, trying to give people the help they need in the moment,” he said. “If the issue persists, we refer students to local professionals outside of school at a discounted rate.”

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of Americas, anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed mental illness in the U.S. and affect over 40 million adults per year — 75 percent of those adults experienced their first anxiety episode before they were 22. In 2017, 68.4 percent of OCC students were under the age of 24, according to the OCC Atlas.

Students with full time jobs can work dozens of hours per week. During the 16-week fall semester, students only get four days off for holidays.

“I have had my own struggles with depression and anxiety. Being stretched so thin at times between being a manager at work and attending school has forced me to decipher between things needed for my mental health and things needed for my wallet,” Tristan Cold, a 21-year-old communications major said.

“My parents have always preached to me ‘struggle today, so you never have to again’ and that has been my main key in maintaining a good basis of mental health for me in my education process,” he said.

The Mental Health and Services Center said they encourage students to get help, whether their issues are severe or not.

For more information, contact the Student Health Center at (714) 432-5026.

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